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Joint Planning Board: No decision yet on VistaNorth

The request from VistaNorth for a proposed housing addition has been sent back to the planning commission.

The Greater Bemidji Area Joint Planning Board voted unanimously Wednesday night to send the proposal back to the Joint Planning Commission for another public hearing and subsequent consideration.

VistaNorth, a residential development on Park Avenue Northwest between 30th and Anne streets northwest, had originally requested an amendment to its Planned Unit Development to allow for a second addition with more housing units and some commercial development.

The JPC last month voted, following a public hearing, to recommend denial of that plan due to concerns with the commercial development.

Following that meeting, the proposal was amended in an effort to respond to the JPC's concerns. The planned commercial development was eliminated while residential units were increased.

"I personally feel, because there are changes from what the planning commission initially looked at, that it should go back to the planning commission," said JPB member Richard Lehmann.

Lehmann, and other JPB members, felt the public should have the opportunity to view and comment on the proposed plans before the JPB considered approval.

"The public has had absolutely no input on it," Lehmann said.

Representing the developer, Crown Properties, were President Jim Cole and Kelly Booge with Freeberg and Grund.

Booge told the council that they believed they were doing the right thing by submitting plans alleviating the concerns cited by the JPC.

He also said the delay - the JPC meets April 23, but the JPB will not meet again until May 13 - could impact the development timeline.

"We want to build this year, and we have a very limited construction season," he said.

There now are 293 housing units in VistaNorth, according to joint planning assistant planner Andrew Mack.

The newest proposal from VistaNorth would be 12 new dwelling units, for a total of 42 housing units, but no commercial development.

The JPC is expected to consider the requesting during its April 23 meeting.

Cole, the president of Crown Properties, declined comment following the meeting.